15 Menachem Av 5759
Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:
I have a brother who is 16. And since I have been away for the year, he has changed so much. he doesn’t go to shul on weekdays, and even shabbos he goes for an hour. and when I ask him why, he says because he doesn’t want to. I had a long discussion with him and he told me that he does not beleive in bechira and that everyone should get the same amount of reward because they are the product of their environment and if Hashem has put them in that place then the way they turn out by the surrounding influence is what Hashem wants. I really don’t know how to answer him because whatever I say he will not accept. He is such a good boy and he basically says that the reason that he is keeping shabbos and kashrut is because that’s what he was brought up with and that he thinks that the Gemara and Mishna are just rabbis who cannot agree on anything. I know he needs yeshiva but I don’t think that he would ever go. He is entering 11th grade this fall. Rabbi Orlofsky, can you please give some advice as to what I should do?
[Name & seminary withheld to protect privacy]
I have been getting a lot of people describing similar situations to yours. The real answer is that there is a magaifa raging out there. There are many kids falling by the wayside and many more who are just going through the motions. The people in the field don’t know how to respond to this terrible problem. Let me define what I think is the problem and then attempt solutions.
The biggest problem is that most frum people are not happy. And if they are it’s in spite of their frumkeit not because of it. People do whatever they have to in order to keep from burning in hell (more for some, less for others) and then they go on to do their own thing. In such a situation Judaism becomes an obstacle to work around, not an opportunity for enjoyment. “Okay, okay I know it’s Lashon Hora. Let me just finish what I was saying”. “Nisht Shabbos garet, but are you going out with us tonight?’ “She’s such a frummy, I can’t talk to her”. “You think Hashem really cares if I…”. The list goes on and on.
People who are unhappy being frum (or Jewish for that matter) but are too guilt-ridden to drop out, devise questions and philosophies to justify their contradictory behavior. If I believe G-d gave the Torah, why don’t I follow it? Well, the Rabbis messed it up. Okay, so what did Hashem mean when he said totafos, or tzizzis or anything else. Anyone who has ever studied Gemara knows that the points they argue about are minute – that’s one of the biggest complaints. Why do I have to figure out this crazy case, what difference does it make anyway? So if they are arguing about minute points, they agree on the major ones. So which Mishna did you decide was wrong?
As I mentioned, however, this is not the problem. Your brother doesn’t care what the Gemera says (or the Torah for that matter). The reason he doesn’t go to shul is not because he has embraced the Greek concept of Fate, but rather because he doesn’t like it. It’s boring. I don’t want to and you can’t make me.
What then is the solution? Well the best you can do is be happy. Or as they say in email If frum people see other people being frum (FFB’s I mean. They’ve come to accept BT’s do it but they’re not like us) and enjoying it. It freaks them out. They can’t understand it. If you want to inspire them with the beauty of davening, SHOW them that you enjoy davening and find it beautiful. Let them see that you enjoy Shabbos, Torah all that stuff.
It’ll take time. Be patient and understanding. Avoid fighting with him about anything, if possible. Let him see you’re frum and nice. Don’t try to answer his questions. Remember, hakol biyedei Shamayim chutz meYiras Shamayim. Contrary to what your brother thinks, he does have free choice for good or bad. You can do everything right and he can still do what he wants. Finally – pray! Remember that tefilla is very effective and under the right circumstances can even be enjoyable. Hang in there.